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Inmates Deemed ‘Dead’ Using Century-Old Law in RI

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Rhode Island is one of the few places where people can still be punished with "civil death" and civil rights advocates want the century-old practice to stop.

Inmates serving life in prison are deemed dead, by Rhode Island statute, with respect to property rights, marriage and other civil rights, as if their natural death took place when they were convicted.

Most civil death laws in the United States have been repealed or successfully challenged in court. Most other countries never adopted the practice.

Rhode Island's statute from 1909 is enforced. The state Supreme Court said Tuesday inmate Cody-Allen Zab couldn't litigate a marriage-related issue because he's civilly dead.

The ACLU plans to sue over the statute's constitutionality if the legislature doesn't repeal it. About 250 people are currently serving life.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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